Onesiphorus Comes to Udorn
May 3, 1998 Sunday Evening
Paul's feelings in II Timothy 1:16-18 about Onesiphorus, the refreshing Christian, reflects our feelings about the three that were with us all day today. If there is a female Onesiphorus in God's church, we were with her today. This was one of the hottest days of the year in Thailand and even Arizona natives like us were having a tough time. Dripping wet, thirsty and hot, we would have been on our last leg except for the Onesiphorus of Vientiane thrilling us with one story after another....but let's start at the beginning.
Onesiphorus met her sister at the agreed time, 7 A.M. at the Vientiane bus station, and they crossed on the first bus to the Thai Immigration check point right on schedule at 8:15 A.M. John David was the first thing we saw, he has grown to 6.3 kilos, that's almost 14 pounds to you Americans. What a good baby, he has the best of both his mother and father's dispositions. 2 1/2 months old, he was worth the hour drive from Udorn.
You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Asian women that have hugged me since we came to Southeast Asia in 1969. It goes against the culture of all nations here to display outward signs of affection. Onesiphorus just had to expressed her feelings this morning. That hug released 94 days of frustration, fear, doubt, hurt, and anger for me. The sparkle in her voice was still there, her eyes still twinkled, and her genuine laugh and smile just wiped away all the anxiety. What a joy to be with two sisters that had nothing negative to say about their lives (can we do that for nine hours?). One of them had herself been jailed for two weeks for attending a Bible class. Her husband, a new Christian, is still in jail. That's enough doom and gloom to put me in a tail spin but not them.
Worship with the Udorn Church of Christ was especially meaningful this morning. Our two sisters had been secretly taking the Lord's Supper at home. Onesiphorus took grape juice and unleavened bread to the Thatdam jail this week for their quiet Sunday communions. Today, for the first time in 14 weeks, these two could sing out loud without worrying about the neighbors or the police spies. The message from God's word this morning was from I Corinthians 1:26-31, God's Building Program, and sure enough, God is using the folks that governments call foolish, dumb, and weak to build a mighty temple to His glory.
How are the Laos Ten? Awesome! Bounlerth is the warden of the 300 prisoners along with his helpers, all Christians. Why were they selected as wardens? The guards said their conduct was super. Those that have been sick are well. Phonsawan took John David to see daddy on Friday. The guard said she had already had her one weekly visit. She appealed that the baby was running fever and she wanted to see her husband. A long visit revealed that all ten were doing fine. Bounlerth spoke for all ten when he said that they deeply appreciate the worldwide concern, prayers, and actions to win their release. What did they need? Not a thing. He didn't mention that they have no fans in the hottest week of the year, filtered water is too expensive so the jail is now furnishing city tap water, they sleep like sardines, the list goes on and on but they didn't need a thing.
Onesiphorus had been to Thailand before, but our other sister had never been out of Vientiane. After worship and lunch together, we took them to a large Thai shopping center. Can you imagine someone who has never seen or stepped on an escalator? We laughed all the way up as our country sister hung onto Jean with both arms. Eyes big as saucers seeing aisle after aisle of bright colors, throngs of people, shopping carts, bright lights, there is nothing like this in the whole country of Laos. What do you need? What does John David need? What do your husbands or the Laos Ten need? With acres of goodies and prices 50% lower than Laos, what would our two sisters allow us to buy for them? NOT ONE THING! God didn't chose the wise, mighty, or noble, and it was a joy to be with them.
5 P.M. came too quick. A last long discussion over cokes at the KFC by the border, a last time to hold John David, a last time to convey our feelings, and then a last short drive to the border. The bus came too quick for a last hug and tears but Onesiphorus sealed it all with that smile as she was wedged into the packed bus headed for Laos. We don't know when and if God will allow us to see one another this side of heaven. We can't bear to think about that, but Jean summed up Onesiphorus in one short sentence as we drove back to Udorn...she was worth it all!
Ken & Jean Fox